The Ansereg website has been online for years and years. Where does the time go? For the site anniversary in 2002, there was a new ansereg story, a tale featuring Elrond in his youth, called Thrice for Honour. Maedhros at last! The prologue to Thrice for Honor, the story Starlight, can be read on its own or read in the context of the longer slash story.
The seed of the story Thrice for Honour came from correspondence with an engaged reader, Elflover, who particularly enjoyed my earlier story Birch and Thorn and was curious about ansereg. I've said before and I'll say again that I greatly enjoy correspondence with readers, and this isn't the first time I've had a story inspired by such discussions. Both my beta readers, Aayesha and Suzana, regularly sparked new ideas off me.
Some readers have let me know they find my idea of ansereg, a way to place consensual BDSM among Tolkien's elves, enchanting. Others state soundly that they don't see it as the same as sadomasochism at all, some people are like, "Well…I don't usually read this sort of thing, but it's okay for an AU." I understand that a few people find the idea preposterous, unseelie lese-majeste to Tolkien.
Tolkien did something fairly amazing with Middle-Earth; he created a world without Carnival; without festivals of permissive release to allow people to cope with a system of beliefs that was normally restrictive. This is part of what makes Middle-Earth NOT an analogue of medieval Europe, since that time and place was embroidered with Carnival as a contrast to Catholicism. The closest we get to Carnival in Tolkien is with occasional hobbit imagery, but his Elves and Men have stately feasts and song as their revels. And they live their lives bound by honor and rules.
Like many fanfiction writers, I wanted to bring a probable sexuality (and a few other things) into Tolkien's very straitlaced fantasy world. Other fanfiction authors have created glimpses of what might have been Carnivalesque, permissive moments in Middle-Earth: glimpses of the camp followers of Minas Tirith, of hobbit Yule festivals, and of elvish rites of love and initiation. You can visit Melethryn for a whole bunch of elf slash that creates hypothetical situations for Middle-Earth nonmarital sex or homosexuality. And as for me…
My AU concept of ansereg is an analogue of consensual sadomasochism. But it differs from the sadomasochism we have in our world today. It's a little better. It has a few things in common with other sexual or sadomasochistic fantasy worlds; consistently attractive partners, the idea of spaces provided for BDSM, of some social approval, a place within a society for it. And, like many of the moral areas in Tolkien's Middle-Earth, it is bound by honor and rules.
If the idea of ansereg works for readers, it's because it's a possible flip side to the structured, constrained sexuality Tolkien gave his Elves in his essay Laws and Customs Amongst the Eldar, or to the sexual silence we see in LOTR. In Thrice for Honour, ansereg functions as a social safety valve of sorts, especially in times of war. It provides different things; catharsis, same-sex bonding, mentoring, safe adventure, distraction from unhappiness, achievable goals in the face of impossible ones. And it provides one of the important goals of Carnival as a way to confront the grotesque, to cease being so perfect for a time.
One last thing. There is one major area of "fanon," or fan beliefs about Elves, that I consistently go against. I feel ludicrous even mentioning it, but there have been a few reader comments. 99% of fanfiction writers who have an elf taking their clothes off in a story picture Tolkien's elves as having…no pubic hair. Whereas I write them consistently with light pubic hair. That's just how I picture them. In humans, pubic hair is there for several reasons, to protect the family jewels and to trap delicious pheromones where they count. Thus, I think Elves have some pubes. This difference comes to the fore in my Elrond stories, where I step away from fanon even more to depict Elrond with significant body hair as part of his human heritage.